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Top 10 Wines for a Tasting Party

By Alyssa Rapp, Founder and CEO of Bottlenotes.com, the premier online wine community where wine enthusiasts come to learn about wine, share tasting notes, and buy wine. Alyssa is also the author of Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips.

Ready to start a wine tasting group? Here are 10 affordable wines from around the world perfect for your next wine tasting party. All wines were chosen by Alyssa J. Rapp, the Founder and CEO of Bottlenotes.com.

Sparkling: La Todera Prosecco NV – Valdobbiadene, Italy ($19)

La Todera winery, a family operation for over 70 years, is producing some of the most sophisticated and delightful Prosecco from Italy. Blended with a small amount of Chardonnay, this Prosecco offers healthy acidity balanced by a tinge of sweetness from the Chardonnay. This wine has a delicate and clean beginning with aromas of honey and peach, a creamy feel in the mouth, and a bright, crisp, and elegant finish.

Sparkling: Can Vendrell (Organic) Cava – Penedès, Spain ($25)

Made from indigenous Xarello, Parellada and Macabéo grapes in Spain's northeasterly Catalonia district, this Cava is made in the traditional Méthode Champensoise like Champagne but comes in at a fraction of the price. The second fermentation that occurs inside the bottle imparts a yeasty richness to the finished wine that makes it the perfect partner to a broad range of foods, including cold meats, appetizers, pastas and picnic fare. Can Vendrell’s stylish – and organic- Cava is dry to the taste and features aromas and flavors of crisp green apple, honey, melon and hay. Nuances of honeysuckle and citrus squirt hover underneath in this crowd-pleasing sparkler that's as easy on the palate as it is on your wallet.

Sparkling: Ayala Zero Dosage Champagne – Champagne, France ($45)

Hervé Augustin, born in Champagne and after 30 years of experience at Laurent-Perrier, de Castellane and then Bollinger, was appointed Managing Director of Champagne Ayala in 2005. The quality of Ayala’s champagnes has been the permanent focus of Nicolas Klym, the “Chef de Cave” (or wine maker), for more than 25 years. Located in Aÿ, in the very heart of Champagne, Ayala has remained like a small jewel. Its limited production and the passion of the team are key factors for an outstanding quality that deserves to be better known. Ayala’s “Zero Dosage” means just that: absolutely no dosage, or no added sugar. Pinot Noir gives the wine its richness and a long finish while Chardonnay, from the finest soils of the Cote des Blancs, adds delicacy, liveliness and freshness. Pinot Meunier, mainly from the Marne Valley, gives the wine an appealing fruitiness. The Zero Dosage is pale gold in color with a fine mousse.

White: Crossroads Sauvignon Blanc -Marlborough, New Zealand ($17)

Thought located in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, Crossroads sources its Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Marlborough, the regional producing almost, if not all, iconic Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand. With its quintessentially Kiwi characteristics of grapefruit, lemon, and general “zip,” the Crossroads Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect palate awakener for any wine tasting evening.

White: Xavier Flouret “French Blond” Sancerre- Loire Valley, France ($22)

The Chatelain family has been growing vines since 1630 on the slopes of the Loire valley. The 30-hectare vineyard in now managed by Jean-Claude Chatelain along with his son Vincent. Now the 12th generation, they continue to make wines with passion and respect for tradition of winemaking.

Eye: Brilliant green gold. Nose: Elegant, rich nose, ripe lemon, grapefruit Palate: Fresh and rich in the mouth with nice powerful aromas.

White: Inspiration Vineyards Chardonnay – Sonoma Coast, California ($19)

Inspiration Vineyards is a boutique winery located in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. Jon and Barbara Phillips, owners of Inspiration, produce fewer than 800 cases of wine annually from vines grown on their estate and throughout Sonoma County. Jon's goal is to produce high-quality, food-friendly wines at an affordable price. His wines have solid acidity, making them especially well-suited for food pairing. Grown on the estate are Chardonnay and “Old Vine” Zinfandel from vines dating back to the 1890s. Their first vintage was in 1999: a Zinfandel made for friends and family. Beside the two estate wines mentioned above, they produce an Alexander Valley Zinfandel, Los Carneros Pinot Noir, and a Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Inspiration Chardonnay is Burgundian in style, with an abundance of apples and pears on the nose and a full rich mouthfeel that is fruit-forward with crisp acidity; flinty with flavors of melon, pears and citrus.

Red: Seven Sisters “Dawn” Pinotage Shiraz – Western Cape, South Africa ($17.50)

The Brutus family lived in a small fishing village on the western coast of South Africa. The Brutus sisters and their baby brother left the tranquility of their sleepy town at a very early age when the family was evicted from their home. They yearned to return but were not able to do so given the unfavorable circumstances of the time. Twenty years later, the sisters reunited to create fine wines. The wines, carefully selected to match the styles and personalities of each sister, celebrate their bond and devotion to one another, a fitting tribute. Classic of Pinotage, the Seven Sisters Pinotage/Shiraz demonstrates an unmistakably peppery, smoky finish.

Red: Château Haut Brisson La Grave - St. Emilion, France ($38)

Château Haut-Brisson is located in the Saint Emilion appellation of France's Bordeaux region, the most famous town in the right bank of Bordeaux, and a super charming destination at that with its cobblestone streets and limestone buildings. Château Haut Brisson’s La Grave Bordeaux Blend like all from the left bank, is Merlot-driven yet concentrated Bordeaux, more “American” in style than many others.

Red: Te Awa 2001 “Boundary”- Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($30)

Te Awa Boundary is made in Hawke’s Bay, at the Southern tip of New Zealand's North Island. Known for its gravelly/rocky soil, akin to that of Bordeaux, winemaker Jenny Dobson endeavors to create a phenomenal Bordeaux “replica” in her “Boundary,” a Merlot-driven Bordeaux Blend with much of the earthiness typical of New Zealand Bordeaux blends with some of the elegance characteristic of a great, right bank Bordeaux, in which she was trained.

Red: Luis Alegre 2002 Tempranillo –Rioja, Spain ($42.50)

Founder Luis Alegre manages vineyard operations at this 25-acre estate in Spain's rapidly-modernizing Rioja region. Most of the property's wines are estate-produced and all are raised using modern temperature-controlled fermentations to ensure careful balance of flavor and structure. This elegant Tempranillo offers up lovely developing aromas and flavors of plum, fig, cola, anise, fennel, sage, smoke, leather, musk and brown sugar. Its medium body makes it a wonderfully versatile wine for pairing purposes at your next wine tasting party.